Dealing with senile dementia and related problems is a huge challenge for the correctional system. As sentencing practices have evolved toward longer prison terms, the average age of inmates has also increased and, along with that, the prevalence of dementia-related illness.
According to a 2012 report by Human Rights Watch (PDF):
- The number of US state and federal prisoners age 65 or over grew at 94 times the rate of the total prison population between 2007 and 2010.
- The number of prisoners age 65 or older increased by 63 percent. The total prison population increased by 0.7 percent. There are now 26,200 prisoners age 65 or older.
- The number of US state and federal prisoners age 55 or older nearly quadrupled between 1995 and 2010, growing by 282 percent, while total number of prisoners grew by less than half, 42 percent.
This has led not only to rising healthcare costs, but also to the need for innovative ways of dealing with dementia among aging offenders. Different jurisdictions have tried various ways of doing this.
On one extreme are states like New York that provide a high-level of expensive care for inmates who have dementia-related illnesses. This can run over $90,000 a year per inmate, which far exceeds the average costs of approximately $41,000 for other inmates in the same system (in the federal system, costs are between $21,000 to $33,000 per inmate per year, on average).
On the other extreme are states like Louisiana and California, that rely on other inmates to provide support and assistance to inmates suffering from dementia. These inmates, called Gold Coats, act as protectors, gophers, and personal care attendants. They’re given some training and are paid about $50 per month for their services.
Given public demand for ever-longer prison terms, the problem of how to manage these inmates is only going to get worse over time, and more expensive.
Want posts conveniently delivered to your email inbox? Just follow crimeandjusticeblog.com by clicking on the link in the left sidebar, or sign up for our monthly roundup of top blog posts.
Share this article with all your favorite services!